Sunday, October 11, 2015

Charleston Outdoor Adventures' Morris Island Lighthouse Eco Tour--Uplifting And Enlightening

Leaving Folly Road, the causeway traveling in was rugged and narrow. Exactly what you would expect of a 13 acre island located in the Folly Island estuaries. At the end of the road, standing above the island's tidal creek like an old brown pelican perched on a weatherworn dock, spreading its wings in the warm southern sun was the locally adored Bowens Island Restaurant. Recognized as an "American Classic," it is a hodgepodge of grayed timber, rusty corrugated steel, old doors for windows, graffiti covered tables and piles of bleached oyster shells. At that time of day, which was 10:45 am, the outdoor decks were silent and the tables unoccupied.

However, destiny did not bring me here to slurp on the restaurant's locally harvested and beloved oysters. Its old, saltwater tainted dock is also home to the Eco-Adventure guiding service, Charleston Outdoor Adventures. Shortly, I would be boarding one of the outfitters charter boats for a 2.5 hour trip through Folly's tidal estuaries to Morris Island on the Morris Island Lighthouse Eco Tour for $45 a person.

After boarding Samson 1, our captain and naturalist guide, Derek Evenhouse, proceeded with introductions and parting instructions--such as life jacket location, safety tips and boat equipment. He fired up the outboard motor and eased the boat away from the old dock into the ebbing waters of Folly Creek where we slowly motored past the ragged wooden remains of a crumbling derelict boat and a group of paddleboaders soaking in the creek's pristine surroundings.

Shortly into our trip, our guide spotted two white, black winged American wood storks circling high above the creek's marsh grass looking for an opportunistic place to land. Captain Derek briefed us on how they mate for life and described their down-curved bill as resembling petrified wood.

Further on, we encountered three brown pelicans and one double-crested cormorant sunning their feathers on a deserted dock across from Crosby Fish and Shrimp Market. Skittish of our presence, the cormorant clumsily took flight from the dock while the pelicans, accustom to human activity, remained unconcerned for us to observe. With their bills partly open, their pouches fluttered in the warm midday sun--an effective evaporate cooling mechanism.

Continuing further into the estuary and the retreating tidal waters, the once hidden pluff mud laced the air with its penetrating odor and for the next fifteen minutes, we contentedly watched numerous pods of bottlenose dolphins feed along the edges of the marsh grass, whipping their tails with a scooping action and on a rare occasion beaching themselves to catch the fish forced onto shore by their waves--a curious hunting technique called strand feeding and characteristic of South Carolina dolphins.

Thoroughly gratified by the exhibition, it was time to cruise to are destination, Morris Island, where we would spend about an hour exploring its tree-barren beach in the shadow of its now water engulfed red brick lighthouse--Morris Island Lighthouse. To learn more about Morris Island and the lighthouse go to Morris Island Lighthouse-Once A Beacon Of Light, Now A Symbol Of Survival.

On our return, Captain Derek took us to the end of Folly Island, talked about the island's Civil War history, learned why the barrier islands south of Sullivan's Island are eroding, drifted past a group of American oyster catchers scattered about on an exposed oyster bed, and watched a dolphin chase and catch a leaping mullet in midair. After 3 hours of cruising and exploration, we docked the boat completely uplifted and enlightened.

Captain Derek, a graduate of Central Michigan University with a degree in Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resources and a Ben Affleck look-alike--in my opinion, was personable, accommodating, knowledgeable and entertaining. He encouraged questions and when asked, took the time to answer them informatively and thoroughly. I give him five stars and as the Strand Feeding Coordinator on Folly Creek, I strongly recommend you request his tours.

The Morris Island Eco Tour is a great way to get an up-close look at one of Charleston's historically famous landmarks--the Morris Island Lighthouse. You can walk the island's seashell laden beach where the famous Civil War Confederate stronghold once stood and immortalized in the movie "Glory," Fort Wagner. You experience the breathtaking scenery of Folly's saltwater estuaries, its abundant bird life and catch a glimpse of its resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. While viewing the dolphins, you may have the opportunity to see these extraordinary animals perform a hunting strategy known as strand feeding. Although, we did not try our luck with a cast net or check out the crab traps, we saw plenty of wildlife and dolphins on an extended tour of 3 hours instead of the usual 2.5 hours.

Charleston Outdoor Adventures is Located at:
1871 Bowens Island Rd.
Charleston, SC

To view all the pictures, go to Morris Island Lighthouse Eco Tour Pictures.


John Adam said...

Thanks for sharing such a valuable info.
waiting for your another post.

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Rick Dunbar said...

You are welcome, John.